In an exhibition game last November, the NCAA Div. II Simon Fraser University Clan led the PacWest Capilano Blues 55 to 35 at the start of the second half.
The SFU highlight reel tells it best: “SFU having a laugh over this one, leading by 20 points …”
After the recess, a new tone. James Lum lit a fuse. “Lum providing the spark and fanning the fans for a comeback. Looks like the kid’s caught on fire.”
The Blues pulled to within nine, eventually losing 102-81.
Lum, a graduate of Tupper secondary and still the Tiger’s all-time leading point scorer, added 12 points for the Blues in the second half and finished the night with 21 points, six assists and four steals. He played 32 minutes.
It wasn’t the first time Clan head coach James Blake had seen Lum light up the court. He’d watched the small, athletic guard play with the provincial team while still a high school student. Blake wanted to sign Lum right out of high school, but the new SFU coach had missed the window and Lum had already committed to the Blues.
Then for two years, Blake watched Lum play in the Western Canada college league with Capilano. In 2011 as a freshman, he was named the PacWest rookie of the year and averaged 15 points a game.
“I’d rather be playing with him rather than against him,” said Blake. “I came up for an interview [with SFU] two years ago and he was one of the few guys who was still left who was unsigned. We tried to get him a year out of high school. I just got the job a little too late and he had made commitments to Jordan Yu at Capilano University. We watched him the two years he was there and recruited him the entire time.”
Last week, Lum signed with SFU.
One of the most over-looked players shooting hoops in B.C., Lum was recruited by CIS schools in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.
Tupper head coach Jeff Gourley said Lum was an unexpected casualty of a coaching shake-up that saw six Canadian university coaches lose their jobs the year he graduated from Tupper.
“He was under a really strange phenomenon in his senior year of high school,” said Gourley, who maintains a very close friendship with Lum. “That year, six CIS coaches were fired and it was the very fist time in my memory that more than one coach was fired in a single season.”
The list included four schools -- McGill, Brock, Thompson Rivers and Queen’s -- that Gourley said were heavily recruiting Lum.
“They all fired their coaches and the new coaches weren’t interested in him and they all pulled their scholarship offers,” said Gourley. One school “just fell off the radar” largely because Lum, listed as five-foot-nine, is dismissed because of his height.
Other schools were also after him, but the high-achieving student considered the academics of each school as well as its athletics, said Gourley. At SFU, he will have to years of athletic eligibility and will study at the prestigious Beedie School of Business. He can choose red shirt for one year.
Blake, who said the student-athlete is five-nine “on a good day” and stands closer to five-seven, said Lum will fit in to the tough, highly competitive NCAA Div. II Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
“He’s small but he’s got that other gear that you need to play in the NCAA. Our league is different than the Canadian league. Our league is full of five-seven to six-foot-one lightning quick point guards and two guards. He fits that mold because of his speed and his athleticism. He fits what we’re doing and he fits his league because of his athleticism. Rather than it being negative, it’s very positive for us.”
Blake said Lum, who joins a roster of international players from the U.S., France, Montenegro and Bulgaria, will be expected to step into a leadership role.
“He has to with this team. With James’ playing experience, he’s a B.C. kid and understands the demographics here, everybody knows him in this area. He’s going to have to take on a leadership role from that standpoint because of his notoriety. On and off the court, he’ll be a good leader for us.”
Lum a Tupper legend
James Lum led Tupper to its first-ever Vancouver city championship in 2010, his senior year of high school, and holds the record as the all-time point scorer. He first played with the senior team in Grade 9 and in four years, banked 3,157 points and 1,043 assists.
In Grade 12 he averaged 22.8 points in 49 games, adding 8.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He shot an average 72 per cent from the line and made 56 per cent of his field goals.
In its first trip to the AAA provincial championship that year, Tupper placed sixth and was named the most inspirational school, in the meanwhile elevating the reputation of the Tigers and drawing more players to the basketball program. —M.S.